In the morning I pack the car with supplies. I’ve chosen a red Jeep circa 2000. It was dirty and dented but everything under the hood looked shiny and updated. Someone had loved this car and now I would too.
My fingernail snaps backwards as I set the tire in the back of the pickup just wrong. I curse, squeezing drops of blood onto the ground. Sucking huge mouthfuls of freezing air I turn back towards my list, trying to repeat the items in an effort to push the pain away.
Canned goods, expiration >1 yr
Proof of identity docs
Not too long after I’ve finished and looking back at the house I wonder if I should lock up. It would seem fitting, and I may have to come back. Who knows what shape I would be in if that were the case. Still, leaving it unlocked would emotionally eliminate the probability of failure. Resisting the urge, I hop up to the stoop and close my eyes as I hear the deadbolt click on the other side. It’s just Plan B.
Once we are on the road the trip seems to be going smoothly, though the twins won’t stop jumping from the back seat to the front, even though it seems like it shouldn’t fit them. The sun has broken against the wheat fields and bright blue birds keep flitting back and forth in front of the car. It reminds me of Sleeping Beauty, when she sings to the forest animals. The road is clear and the air is crisp. I keep winding along brightly lit corridors between the fields, right and left at regular intervals and everything seems to look the same.
We’ve been on the road for a few hours when I see a mileage sign that reads 7 MILES TO DANTON. I look to Cleaver and he shakes his head. I must be getting tired.
A few minutes later and I see another sign. DANTON WELCOMES YOU! In front of me there is an all too familiar sprawl and a tint of hot pink electrical tape several blocks in front of the vehicle. I slam my foot on the brake but there is no reaction from the pickup and we continue to slide down the hill, until the road gives out underneath us and we fall straight down, engulfed in flames rising up from beneath the highway. In the weightless air I turn towards the dogs and they are beginning to sprout dark hairs and rotten teeth. I feel a sharp pinch in my arm and sit straight up.
I wake gasping for air, sweat pouring down my back and tears staining my cheeks. My left arm was pinned beneath me and now it stings like pins and needles. The three dogs are at the foot of my bed, asleep. I dress and wake them, heading for the already-packed Jeep. I won’t be sleeping anymore tonight anyway.